Transitioning from the bottle to something else can be extra challenging for kids with clefts, since they often have very little or no suction until their palates are closed. Here are some ideas from parents:
"The only sippy cup that [my child] could ever figure out was the Nuby cups with the soft top. Eventually he learned to suck from a straw so he could use the sports type cups with the straw in them. He is 5 years old now, still has the alveolar cleft with small fistula, and still can't suck out of most sippy cups."
"My boys weren't ever able to drink out of the hard plastic sippy cups unless I took out the valve (which unfortunately made them leak if tipped). They did figure out a soft topped one (material similar to the haberman nipple)....we did cut the sippy cup holes a bit bigger too (since the spout was soft plastic), and that seemed to help- especially at the beginning. My boys also could use the hard spouted NUBY cups they sell at Walmart, but we had to of course take out the valve. And then that made for lots of messes in the car and in diaper bags and on carpet, but oh well! ... But eventually both wanted to drink out of a cup without a top. They both did learn how to sip out of a straw though around 2-3 years old, and that was a surprise!"
"[My child] used the soft sippy cups. I think they are a dollar at walmart. I am not sure on the price now. I had [him] off the bottle and he lost weight because he would get too tired drinking from a sippy cup. I would try a few different ones. Look at the grocery store too, they sometimes have one that will work. I wouldnt stress too much about being off the bottle at one. I did and then he had to go back on it anyways. Good luck. Every kid is different and they all have there own time schedule."
"I'm sure every child is different but my son had a very wide cleft and was never able to use a sippy cup with the no-spill valve in it, even after the cleft was repaired. He used a regular baby bottle nipple with a slightly bigger slit cut into it to learn to suck. We also had good luck with the disposable sippy cups because you only have to suck lightly to get liquid to come out of it. Its a harder plastic than the nuby so biting won't help (which is good). For the straw, start by lifting the straw out of the glass holding the liquid in by keeping your finger at the top and as he sucks, slowly let some of the liquid out of it. Then he will learn that he has to suck to get it out. Cutting the straw and putting it in a shorter glass makes it much easier too because less suction is required to get the drink to the top. Good luck."
"To help with learning how to sip out of a straw, our OT taught us this cool training trick: you can take a mead johnson, take a nipple and turn it so it is upside down (dipping into the bottle rather than protruding out the normal way from the top), then insert a small straw into the nipple hole (you may need to cut the hole larger), but you do want the nipple snug around the straw. Then let your child practice putting their mouth around the straw (this takes some practice to be able to pierce those lips), and gently squeeze the bottle, so a bit of juice/water comes out through the straw. This will just get them familiar with how a straw feels/works. They don't necessarily suck at first, but will learn how. Another good way to get them to start learning how to use a straw, is get a milkshake in a flavor the child likes. Suck up a bit of it through the straw, then plug the top of the straw with your finger, so the straw remains full. Then take the straw out of the milkshake and put the unplugged end into your child's open mouth, and then unplug the other end by releasing your finger. It makes all the milkshake that was in the straw fall out and into your baby's mouth. This also gets them familiar with a straw and how it works. We practiced these a bit with my boys, and with Jimmy, one day, we were in a restaurant and he grabbed my drink (which had a straw in it- I thought surely he wouldn't be able to get anything out), and he started sipping!!! It was amazing! I didn't even realize that he would be able to do it on his own yet, but he could!"
"My little guy's occupational therapist suggested getting an empty honey bear and fitting a straw in the hole, that way you can squeeze liquid up into the straw. This is similar to the suggestion using the Mead Johnson bottle, but a lot cheaper! (They are 69 cents at Macey's here in Provo). The bendy straws work perfectly because the part that bends is just big enough to plug the hole and make it airtight, though I think if you could find clear straws it would be even better so you can see how hard to squeeze."